publishing · strategy

Pricing and promotions

When you give over control of your book to a publishing house, your publisher will then decide on the pricing – how much the ebook retails for on Amazon and other e-tailers, and, through deals with the stores, how much the book will be sold at at retailers such as supermarkets / WHS / Waterstones etc. This is usually something which goes on very much behind the scenes, but it can be a source of anxiety to writers (especially when it comes to ebooks) so I thought I would try to explain it a little bit using the experience I have.

Different publishers will have different rules in place, but in my particular commercial division we price our debut ebooks at 99p, because we know we’re competing with a very crowded market and we know that consumers are often drawn to low price points. To be clear, it’s not that I think the books are only worth 99p – of course having written myself I know exactly how much effort, heart and soul goes into writing a novel, but as a business publishers do have to be competitive and we have to listen to the market, hence the low price where possible. However, it’s rare for ebooks to stay priced at 99p indefinitely – after a period of time (usually a few months) the book might be raised in price to either £1.99 / £2.99 / £3.99 or higher. Sometimes, your publisher might even make your ebook free for a short period of time, with the aim being that this drives the book up the charts and increases visibility, and translates into paid sales once the price moves back up.

Once authors begin to backlist, we will be able to tell whether they are building up reader loyalty, and can then price their third book (for example) higher because we know people already love the author and will be prepared to pay a little more – ie. it’s not a risk for the consumer in the same way as a debut is. Most publishers will have an analytics team that will analyse the ASP (average selling price) of your novel and make decisions on pricing accordingly.

A key reason for raising a price is because places like Amazon have set rules about eligibility for promotions – if a book has only ever been at 99p, it won’t be eligible for lots of the major deals that Kindle advertises. Therefore, it’s about being strategic as publishers and ensuring we are shifting our pricing in order to maximise opportunities for an author and their book. These sort of opportunities in the ebook market primarily come from retailers Amazon, Kobo and iBooks, with Amazon being the biggest player. They range from promotions called Kindle Monthly Deals, where Amazon drop a book’s price to 99p and give it extra visibility for one month, to big sales like the Kindle Summer Sale where a range of titles are promoted all summer at 99p. iBooks run lots of genre based promotions, such as ‘Bestselling Psychological Thrillers’ or books to make you laugh / cry, and again they will then drop the price and promote the book on their homepage, usually in image form (banners / solus blocks). Promotions are a real target for publishers, as they usually provide the selected books with a nice boost in sales and chart rankings. How it works in my experience is that the Digital team will pitch titles they think are suitable to the e-tailers (once the editor has signed off on the chosen titles) and once the e-tailer makes their selection, the editor informs the author and agent. Your publisher probably won’t tell you until the promotion is actually guaranteed, as there is no point getting hopes up unnecessarily!

There are also smaller, shorter promotions such as Daily Deals or sales around particular events, e.g. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and all titles are up against competition from other publishers. Usually, titles with lots of reviews are more likely to get selected – another reason why you should ask people to review your book if they have time and enjoyed it!

The nice thing about ebook promotions is that they can be flexible – your publisher can pitch backlist titles too, so even if your book came out over a year ago, it might still be selected for a sale and get a nice new lease of life! We have re-jacketed older ebooks for specific sales too, again with great results.

In terms of your paperback, as a commercial publisher most of our books are sold through supermarket channels, in bulk. For these, the supermarket will control the pricing – our sales’ reps will pitch the books to the buyers, and they will make their selections as to what goes in store and at what price. Deals will be done between publishers and stores, and all this will determine where your paperback gets placed – for example, it might go into all 500 Asda stores, or it might go into half of them. It might be priced at £2 or it might be in a Buy One Get One Free deal. This isn’t something that you as an author can control so essentially try not to worry too much about it – your publisher will give you the info when they get it. The other thing to mention here is that often, supermarkets and other bookstores make their selections very late in the day, so you could receive the info even just a week / a few days before your publication day. This is NORMAL – do not worry!

Pricing and promotions are a tricky beast but as publishers we handle these aspects of your publication, and we will always be doing the best thing for your book and for the business. That’s how it works – there are of course smaller minutiae but hopefully this gives you all the basic information and is helpful. It can seem like a very mysterious world, but if you have a good publisher they will be taking all the steps they can to make sure your book gets into as many readers’ hands as possible, whether that’s in ebook or print or both!

Thank you for visiting my blog. If you enjoyed this article, you can check out my debut psychological thriller here!

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